The Rev. Canon Leonel L. Mitchell, one of the scholars responsible for the Book of Common Prayer (1979), died May 23 in South Bend, Indiana. The veteran liturgist and theologian was 81.
Mitchell was professor of liturgics at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary from 1978 to 1995 and lecturer in Church history and liturgy at SWTS from 1978 to 2005. He was assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology from 1971 to 1978 and director of its master’s program from 1974 to 1978. For the past four years he was canon theologian at the Cathedral of St. James in South Bend, where he had served as honorary canon since 1978.
Mitchell was author of multiple books, including Change: How Much Do We Need? (Seabury, 1975), The Meaning of Ritual (Paulist/Morehouse, 1988), Praying Shapes Believing (Winston/Morehouse, 1991), Planning the Church Year (Morehouse, 1991), Lent, Holy Week, Easter and the Great 50 Days (Cowley, 1996), and Pastoral and Occasional Offerings (Cowley, 1998).
“Canon Mitchell was known to many from his days teaching liturgy at Seabury-Western and the University of Notre Dame, to many more whose liturgical education required ‘Praying Shapes Believing,’ and to all of us, knowingly or not, through his work on the 1979 Book of Common Prayer,” the Very Rev. Brian G. Grantz, dean and rector of the cathedral, wrote in announcing Mitchell’s death. “It has been my great honor to serve with him at the Cathedral of Saint James in South Bend these past four years.”
Mitchell discusses his liturgical work at length in the video series Claiming the Vision: Baptismal Identity in the Episcopal Church, available online from Bloy House, the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont.
The Living Church published Mitchell’s remembrance of the Rev. H. Boone Porter, Jr., in its June 3 issue, and reprints it here in his honor.